Tag Archives: Avoidance

The Day after International Stammering Awareness Day (ISAD)

kite-007Disclosing one’s stammer is easy they say… vital I say. In fact it is very much a technique I subscribe to, use frequently and encourage others to try. Imagine going into a stressful situation, an interview for example; walk through the door, friendly handshake, introductions gone well, half way through the first question, BLOCK. No sound. Embarrassed interviewers. Red faces, yours and theirs. You get the word out, will I block again? Will I stammer? Oh please get me out of here. It feels like a total failure, even though it probably isn’t. Your mind is going through all the usual worst case scenarios.

Now, try this for size. Walk through the door, friendly handshake, introductions gone well. “Before we start I would just like to say, I occasionally stammer. It’s not a problem for me and I trust it won’t be for you.” Now you are in control, you have wowed them, you have a USP. If you do block or stammer, it’s not a surprise, there will be no embarrassment, your stress levels are normal for an interview, and you’re likely to be more fluent as a result.

Early self disclosure works in many situations; with new people, those dreaded round the table introductions at meetings and even presentations and speeches. Whatever the occasion, it puts those of us who stammer in control of our speech, something we crave but may rarely experience.

So why is it then that I, someone who has lots of experience and success using this technique, finds it so difficult to talk about my stammer with my family, friends and colleagues? They already know I stammer, a fact I have never wanted or been able to hide, so self disclosure with them would be something slightly different. I know I would not suffer prejudice or ridicule, these are my friends after all, and rightly or wrongly I do crack a joke about stammering, so they know I am in a comfortable place with my speech.

Is it because I would have to speak more about feelings rather than the mechanics of speech? Is it because I would be revealing a more vulnerable side to my character they may not have seen, wish to see or I may wish to reveal? Is it because I don’t like talking about me me me? Am I, as usual, over-thinking the whole situation and should I just get on and talk to them about how stammering has and continues to shape me into the person I am?

These are questions I do not yet have answers to, but writing this has motivated me to move my self disclosure onto the next level, more personal, closer to home. I have always been sceptical of ‘awareness days’, there is a risk those not directly affected will be jolted for 1/365th of a year, then move on to the next cause. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support ISAD and the freedom it gives stammerers to speak out, often for the first time, and long may it continue. As with every British Stammering Association Conference I have attended, we must, must ride the wave of positivity and ‘can do’ generated and continue the work started on that day or weekend.

For me, that means talking to my friends, workmates and anyone else who knows me (sounds like I am on the radio!) about stammering, educating them and doing my bit towards a society that accepts dis-fluency and not expects fluency.

When I was a child I used to enjoy spending time on the beach flying kites; brightly coloured, bold symbols of fun and freedom, only just under control but high in the sky for all around to see. I will be flying the kite for stammering from now on, when will you be flying yours?

paul-roberts-photo

 

Paul Roberts

Therapy: admitting defeat or an accomplishment?

It took 18 years of living with my stammer before I finally decided to seek help in the form of stammering therapy with Sam at intandem. 

So, why did it take me so long? 

Well, the answer was because I did not want to admit I had a stammer. By pretending it wasn’t there meant that it somehow wasn’t a problem and that it would just disappear… Of course it did not. If I admitted defeat maybe it would rear its head even more? Was I embarrassed by the idea of having a stammer…? Sure! 

Throughout the years my fluency has gone through high and lows. Approximately a year ago I felt I was really struggling. I had become a lot more conscious of my stammer and was even more keen to hide it. The negative feelings surrounding my stammer had increased, which in turn made me stammer more. I felt like I was on a downward spiral and through all the battling I could see no way out.  april14   So, I ‘admitted defeat’ and sought help. 

A year on, my thoughts and attitudes towards my stammer have changed quite radically. One of the key turning points for me was ‘self advertising’, which involved telling friends, family and others that I stammered. Through Sam I had an opportunity to put this into practice by speaking of my experiences to groups of speech and language therapy students: the first time I would give a speech to an audience who all knew I stammered. The scenario was quite alien and I was not sure how I would respond. 

The experience proved more rewarding than I could have ever imagined! The audience’s knowledge of my speech actually reduced the pressure to try not to stammer. If I felt a stammer coming I was more willing to let it out. Quite quickly and without realising I became more relaxed, a lot more fluent and public speaking actually became enjoyable. 

Now a year into speech therapy I have developed a more realistic view of others’ perceptions of my stammer and also put my own stammer into perspective. Rather than battling to avoid stammering I am now more willing to stammer openly. The end result (one which I was always looking for) has been an improvement in my fluency, however it is the underlying feeling of speaking without fear and being freer to engage in the things that I want that has made the biggest difference. 

So, in hindsight, ‘admitting defeat’ feels more like an accomplishment, and much, much more! 

Kal

The Stammering Open Space

I’d been to see Sam a few times before she introduced the idea of a group session. At first I was sceptical, after all I’d been trying to hide my stammer from everyone: family, friends, colleagues etc. so why would I want to be in a situation with people I didn’t know and be open about having a speech problem? Well that turned out to be exactly the point: the opportunity to be in a safe & non-judging environment, where I didn’t have to try to hide it!

The moment I arrived I was happy that I’d had the courage to attend – the session completely exceeded expectations and was actually good fun and a lot of laughs. The other guys were a lot like me, which was the biggest surprise of all. Everyone was open, honest and going through the same things, which made me realise that I wasn’t actually alone in any of this – and that’s really encouraging. We all have varying degrees of stammering and each of us different aspects we struggle with. Listening to everyone’s experiences and how they deal with their speech has definitely helped me overcome some of my obstacles and has made the whole process of speaking that much easier. Being able to share, push the boundaries and experience something new in a group environment is incredibly beneficial and I’d encourage everyone to try it at least once. And of course, did I mention the superb tea, coffee and biscuits that are on offer as well…?

See you at the next Open Space, cheers.

Joe